Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Can Amazon Conquer the World? NY Times “On Tech”

Excerpt with link to pieces in the NY Times. You can subscribe to their “On Tech” newsletter by email without being a NY Times subscriber, as I understand it:

 

Technology

September 28, 2020

Can Amazon conquer the world?

Gianluca Alla
Author Headshot By Shira Ovide
Amazon is the opposite of our romantic imagination of Italian villages lined with bakeries and old cobbler shops. But the pandemic persuaded Italians to overcome their reluctance to online shopping — and Amazon.
Adam Satariano, who writes about European technology for The New York Times, talked to me about his article on why Amazon’s playbook started to work in Italy, and if the country is a template for other parts of the world where Amazon hasn’t caught on.
There are underlying questions in Adam’s article: Will Amazon become something the world doesn’t really have: a dominant, globally popular store? And what might we gain and lose from that?
Shira: Why wasn’t Amazon that popular in Italy before now?
Adam: Online shopping has never been as common there as it is in the United States or elsewhere in Europe. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and people tend to prefer shopping in stores and paying in cash. Roads in many parts of the country, especially in the less affluent south, are pretty bad.
The pandemic changed habits. One survey found that two million Italians tried e-commerce for the first time from January to May. Amazon was ready for this moment. So was Esselunga, an Italian grocery company that has done well with food delivery.
How did Amazon get ready?
The company was patient. Since it started in Italy in 2010, it slowly built warehouses and a distribution network, and convinced merchants to sell their products online. For local appeal, Amazon sponsors events like a Christmas festival in remote villages to show that the company can reach everywhere. Amazon also let Italians earmark a percentage of their purchases for local schools.
How do Italians feel about Amazon?
There’s tension between tradition and change. There’s concern about what a shift to online shopping means for the economy and culture in a country where small and midsize businesses are a large part of the economy. In Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, there are strikes and organized efforts to get better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Amazon Bribery Scheme to Game Customer Reviews

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-24/amazon-amzn-bribery-scheme-could-be-tip-of-the-iceberg

It’s described as potentially “a $100 million dollar swindle.”

NY Times tech columnist writes:

  • A wild crime story about our software-driven lives: Prosecutors have charged former Amazon employees and e-commerce consultants with bribing Amazon workers for years to erase bad reviews, get competitors booted off the site for bogus reasons and other manipulations, Bloomberg News reported. The tactics show that what people buy on Amazon is influenced by computerized assessments of things like reviews and the reputation of the seller — and that those factors can be gamed.
Categories
Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon’s latest drone a harbinger of total surveillance

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/09/24/amazon-ring-security-drone/

Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, personally owns the Washington Post, but its technology writer is quite vocal with criticisms and questions of Amazon’s latest “security” offerings and their dystopian potentials.

EXCERPT:

The new Amazon devices most likely to raise eyebrows use cameras, not just microphones. That starts with the $250 Always Home Cam, part of its Ring brand of connected doorbells and security systems. This camera is an autonomous drone that flies inside your house so you can check in from afar. “We wanted to create one camera that could give users the flexibility of every viewpoint they want around the home,” Ring founder Jamie Siminoff said in a blog post.

Before you ask: No the drone doesn’t contain lasers for entertaining the cats — they’re likely to be terrified, anyway. Amazon says the Always Home Cam does have obstacle-avoidance technology so it doesn’t run into anything unexpected.

Siminoff said the idea was you could use your phone to remotely see if you left a window open, or the stove on, which is convenient. But the scary part is we know those aren’t the only ways it could be used. Amazon said the drone always hums at a “certain volume” so people are aware it is running, and can’t be manually controlled — it only flies along a preset path.

But as we’ve learned from Ring’s other products, what’s to stop it from spying on family members or neighbors, becoming a tool for police — or being used to watch you? Once again, Ring’s products raise more social questions than the company seems to want to address. Ring said Siminoff was not available for an interview.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Hawking Q-Anon Conspiracy Products

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-selling-qanon-shirts-masks-products-2020-8

Excerpt:

  • Amazon currently displays hundreds of results for products associated with QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory, which the FBI has deemed as posing potential domestic terrorism threats.
  • Business Insider found hundreds of results for t-shirts, books, stickers, masks, and other items when searching for “QAnon” in Amazon’s marketplace.
  • However, not all of the results were directly tied to the far-right fringe conspiracy theory — some were pro-Trump propaganda or messaging associated with “Blue Lives Matter.”
  • Amazon’s third-party seller policy prohibits the sale of “products that promote, incite or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”
  • While Amazon lists hundreds of QAnon-related items for sale, other tech companies including Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook have declared a hardened stance against QAnon-related content leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

 

Categories
Labor actions

Work Week Report on Amazon Warehouse Shutdown Aug. 1

Amazon Workers Shut It Down For Safety 

https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww-8-6-20-amazon-workers-shut-it-down-for-safety-ag-workers-in-central-valley-dying
WorkWeek on KPOO  covers the August 1, 2020  caravan and shutdown of the San Leandro Amazon warehouse over lack of health and safety protection from Covid and for $30 an hour in wages.
Workers talk about their action, which shut down the warehouse for 4 hours, and also why this is important for all workers.

Categories
Labor actions

Tell Amazon: Stop Silencing Black Workers

Athena.

I have worked at the Amazon MSP1 fulfillment center in Shakopee, MN for nearly four years and have a long history of organizing for better working conditions. Managers have targeted me before, but that harassment has only gotten worse during the pandemic. Now, Amazon is retaliating against me for speaking out about the risks of coronavirus in my warehouse, and I need your help.

Tell MSP1’s General Manager: I #StandwithHibaq

On June 24th, I emceed a press conference with my coworkers about how risky it is to come to work, just as we learned how closely Amazon is tracking the infections in our warehouse – without sharing that information with us.


On July 5, a manager told me I had too much Time Off Task or “TOT.” (Any minute we are not scanning something because we are going to the bathroom, waiting to get an assigned workstation, washing our hands– that gets logged as TOT.) I was presented with a variety of suspicious claims: one document penalized me for TOT before I had even clocked in for the day, and another contained a block of time that management could not account for. Despite these inconsistencies, I was given a final warning, the last step before being fired.

Tell MSP1’s General Manager: I #StandwithHibaq

Amazon is desperately trying to stop us from organizing. They’re pushing feel-good ads and empty statements, while frontline workers don’t have adequate protections to keep us and our families safe from COVID-19. Amazon has used social distancing and references to “internal policies” as pretexts to surveil, target, and fire whistleblowers around the country. We don’t feel safe, and our families and neighbors are at risk. Amazon has taken away our covid pay and access to the unpaid time off we need to protect vulnerable family members and co-workers. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is making billions, and Amazon’s stock price is at an all-time high.

I am appealing this warning, but after being harassed just for protecting the health of my coworkers, my family members, and my neighbors, I have no faith in Amazon’s appeal system. That is why I am asking Amazon shoppers to stand against the flagrant retaliation that workers, particularly Black workers, are facing across the country.

Will you tell Amazon: Stop silencing workers?
– Hibaq Mohamed

Categories
Boycott Amazon Campaign

How People’s Power Beat Amazon in NYC

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Whole Foods Censors Its Workers, Who Walk Out

https://truthout.org/articles/whole-foods-is-quietly-telling-workers-not-to-show-black-lives-matter-support/

This week, a group of Whole Foods workers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, walked out after being told they couldn’t wear Black Lives Matter masks because they weren’t part of “the company dress code.”

Prior to the incident, wearing masks with other symbols or logos, including ones that featured the New England Patriots, were reportedly acceptable.

This is according to a report in the Boston Globe, which details how Whole Foods worker Savannah Kinzer and a few of her colleagues wore BLM-themed masks on Wednesday. A manager told them they either had to remove the masks or go home. Seven of them walked out. On Thursday, Kinzer showed up and passed out more masks, but they were met with the same fate. Dozens of workers were sent home again.

The story from Boston is merely one of many reports of many of Whole Foods workers being sent home for wearing masks featuring the phrase or iconography of “Black Lives Matter.” There are similar reports from workers at Whole Foods stores in New Hampshire and Seattle, Washington. In Philadelphia, protesters protested in front of one Whole Foods after a similar incident occurred.

Categories
Boycott Amazon Campaign Surveillance Capitalism

No Tech for ICE! Campaign

Mijente has launched a No Tech for ICE campaign, focusing on Palantir — its CEO, Alex Karp is pictured above — and its use of Amazon Web Services to help ICE, the Border Patrol and DHS carry out the mission of deportation and repression of immigrants and other Latinx people in the US.

Here are two links:

https://action.mijente.net/petitions/tell-jeff-bezos-amazon-cut-your-ties-to-ice

https://notechforice.com/palantir/

As vice.com recently reported:

HTTPS://CMS.VICE.COM/VICE/EN_U…

In a CNBC interview at Davos, Palantir CEO Alex Karp admitted that his company “[finds] people in our country who are undocumented.” For years, Palantir has attempted to deny or downplay any role in those operations by pointing to the two wings of ICE, which deal with “criminal investigations” and immigration enforcement.

Palantir, a technology company founded by Karp and Peter Thiel, has contracts with the Pentagon, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. Last year alone, Palantir secured $1.5 billion in new federal government contracts. But it has faced the most scrutiny over its contracts with ICE.

Categories
Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon’s Role in Surveillance of the Black Community

From OpenMedia.org:

Amazon is one of the leading vendors of facial recognition software in the world. Their Rekognition facial recognition technology has been marketed and sold to police departments all over the U.S.1

This software is dangerous and biased. It’s deployed disproportionately in communities of color, which leads to greater instances of harassment, wrongful arrest or worse. It’s also been repeatedly proven to disproportionately misidentify people of color. 2, 3

This week, Amazon put out a solidarity statement claiming to stand with the Black community and announced donations to various equity and justice organizations – but these actions ring completely hollow while Amazon’s still making money off facilitating biased policing of that very community. Send a message now over Twitter to pressure Amazon to immediately stop selling this technology to police departments. (not on Twitter or social media? The page has some options for using Facebook or email).

SEND A MESSAGE

Here’s what Amazon posted just the other day on their Twitter and Facebook accounts:4

They also announced donations to several organizations in the U.S. working towards equity and justice, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the ACLU.5

Since posting the tweet and the announcement, Amazon has ignored replies asking them to make good on their words and dollars by stopping sales of biased and dangerous facial recognition software to police departments.

We shouldn’t let hypocrisy like this stand. Use of their technology by police poses a huge privacy and safety risk to anyone currently protesting on the streets. 

Hundreds of people have already been calling them out. Can you amplify this message so that it finally breaks through? Visit the action page for a sample tweet, Facebook message, or email that can be sent in one click.

SEND A MESSAGE

Thanks for all you do,

Victoria with OpenMedia

P.S. Amazon’s live phone support is currently inactive due to COVID-19. But if you’re able to do so, voicing your concerns in that way, once it’s restored, is another powerful way to add pressure.

Sources

  1. Amazon sells facial recognition software to police all over the US, but has no idea how many departments are using it: Business Insider
  2.  ‘It’s techno-racism’: Detroit is quietly using facial recognition to make arrests: The Guardian
  3. AI researchers tell Amazon to stop selling ‘flawed’ facial recognition to the police: The Verge
  4. @Amazon on Twitter
  5. Amazon donates $10 million to organizations supporting justice and equity: The Amazon Blog: Day One